When the state’s Legislature convenes next month, it will see a bill that aims to permanently extend telehealth coverage in the Medi-Cal program that was put in place to address the coronavirus pandemic.
California lawmakers will debate a bill next month that aims to make expanded telehealth coverage permanent for the state’s Medicare program.
AB 32, introduced earlier this month by State Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, seeks to continue the momentum for connected health by indefinitely extending emergency provisions enacted during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic for the Medi-Cal program.
The bill also calls for the state’s Department of Health Care Services to convene an advisory group by January 2022 and conduct an analysis of “the benefits of telehealth in Medi-Cal, including an analysis of improved access for patients, changes in health quality outcomes and utilization, and best practices for the right mix of in-person visits and telehealth,” with that report due to the Legislature by June 2025.
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California is among the front-runners in improving telehealth coverage for underserved populations, including legislation signed in October 2019 to establish payment and coverage parity for the Medi-Cal program and expand opportunities for asynchronous telehealth services.
“California, the technology leader in our nation and the world, should also lead on access to health services,” Aguiar-Curry said when that bill was signed into law. “Telehealth overcomes barriers to healthcare access by using technology to connect patients to their doctors, no matter where they live, what the demands of their jobs are, or what mobility challenges they may have. By taking advantage of technological innovations in the healthcare industry, we can use our doctors’ time and expertise more efficiently while expanding access to all types of care for Californians.”
Emergency measures enacted during the pandemic include coverage for more services provided through telehealth, allowing more providers to use the platforms and coverage for telehealth in new locations, such as clinics, health centers and the patient’s home, and through modalities such as the audio-only telephone.
Aguiar-Curry’s bill is one of more than 200 filed in advance of next year’s Legislative session, and it addresses an issue that states and the federal government have been looking to address. Some states have already moved to permanently extend telehealth, while others are debating or passing bills that would keep the coverage in place up to a certain date, such as the expiration of the public health emergency. Still others are waiting to see how Congress addresses the issue.
Source: mHealth Intelligence